Creating Community for a Lifetime

Big Picture, continued

White House Conference on Aging: Setting National Priorities

Remember last spring when the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging sponsored a series of public forums to discuss long term aging policy issues? The five statewide forums focused on developing an agenda to address the community, economic, health and caregiving needs of the baby boomers – a process repeated in every state last year to inform and shape aging policy discussions at the White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA), held December 11-14, 2005 in Washington D.C.

The 1,200 conference delegates from across the country country – including Suzann Ogland-Hand, PhD, Director of the Center for Senior Care at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Grand Rapids – selected the top 50 national aging policy priorities for the next decade and participated in work groups to develop strategies for implementing the resolutions. Their work will be consolidated in a final report that will be presented to the U.S. President and Congress in June 2006.

Ogland-Hand, a member of the CCFL Access to Health Care work group, spoke at the conference about the need for education for health professionals to help them prepare to treat an increasing number of older adults. She also addressed the high price we pay for failing to treat depression in older adults. As Creating Community for a Lifetime finalizes our recommendations, it is encouraging to note that we share many of the concerns and priorities expressed by the WHCoA. The top ten WHCoA priorities address long term care, transportation, integrated delivery systems, mental health treatment and provider education and training – all issues taken up by CCFL work groups in the last year.

“Most of the top resolutions from the conference reflect concerns about the independence and health of older Americans, especially in relation to long term care,” according to James Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging. “At least seven out of the 10 priorities reflect a common thread: the need for a comprehensive national strategy to address long term care needs of the frailest and most vulnerable seniors.” Firman also points out that the resolution calling for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act within six months was the number one vote-getting resolution of the entire conference, winning 1,061 of a maximum of 1,200 votes.

Conference delegates ranked transportation options for older Americans third among the top ten priorities. The mobility resolution calls for expanding transportation options for seniors, increasing funding for public transportation targeted to seniors’ needs, coordinating the 62 federal programs that support transportation services at the local level, and developing communities that allow older citizens to “age in place” within their own neighborhoods with easy access to essential, every day destinations.

Held only once every ten years, the White House Conference on Aging is federally mandated to provide public input on long term national aging policy, with the potential to influence legislative action for years to come. In fact, the Older Americans Act, which provides a variety of social services for older adults including home-delivered meals, transportation, and caregiver support, grew out of a previous White House Conference.

To view the top 10 WHCoA resolutions, go to

To view the complete text of all of the resolutions considered at the 2005 White House Conference, go to